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SOUTHERN MUSIC COMPANY

Southern Music Company storefront
Southern Music Company, which began as a small music publishing/distribution and instrument business in San Antonio in the 1930s, had grown into a major national and international publisher of sheet music by the twenty-first century. Courtesy of Southern Music Company.

SOUTHERN MUSIC COMPANY. Southern Music Company, music publisher and distributor, was located at 1248 Austin Highway in San Antonio. Milton Fink, who was an associate of C. Bruno and Company, a longtime distributor of musical instruments out of New York, moved to San Antonio from New York in the 1930s. He married into the Scharlack family who owned Southern Jewelry Company, located on Houston Street in downtown San Antonio. In 1937 Fink started a music publishing/distribution and instrument enterprise, operating from humble beginnings as a single display in the rear of Southern Jewelry Company. As the business grew, he eventually focused strictly on publishing as Southern Music Company.

In 1950 Southern Music Company moved into a three-story, 30,000-square-foot building on the 1100 block of Broadway and developed a reputation as a leading publisher in sheet music. After Arthur Gurwitz of Laredo came to San Antonio and married Ruth Jean Scharlack in 1951, he eventually became president of Southern Music.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Southern Music continued to expand its role as a publishing leader, both nationally and internationally. In the early 1950s the business purchased Andraud Company, another music publisher, and maintained its large back catalog. Notable among Gurwitz’s accomplishments was his securing of the copyright for “The Eyes of Texas"; on behalf of the University of Texas at Austin in 1986.

Vocal Sheet Music—“The Aggie War Hymn”
Vocal Sheet Music—“The Aggie War Hymn” (Southern Music Company, San Antonio). Southern Music Company is a leading publisher for band music both nationally and internationally. Their extensive catalog includes Texas A&M University’s “Aggie War Hymn.” Courtesy of Southern Music Company.

After conducting business at its landmark locale on Broadway for fifty years, in May of 2000 more than 300 tons of music, shelving, and furniture were moved to a new location, 33,000-square-feet of space on Austin Highway. A grand opening celebration was held on October 14, 2000.

In the early twenty-first century, Southern Music Company also included online services and continued to handle publishing needs ranging from orchestral to pop music. A leading publisher for band music both nationally and internationally, Southern Music was a primary publisher for UIL competition music in Texas. Their extensive catalog included the music both for the University of Texas Longhorn school song “The Eyes of Texas” and the Texas A&M University “Aggie War Hymn.”

Additionally, the company bought and distributed music from more than 500 other publishers and supplied a catalog of its own titles, which included the works of such well-known composers as Samuel Adler, Percy Grainger, Julie Giroux, James Barnes, W. Francis McBeth, Eric Ewazen, and John Philip Sousa. Southern Music Company also had the exclusive U.S. distribution rights to Japan’s Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra compact discs in the United States. The retail store maintained a large library of sheet music onsite for patrons and also offered various education products, as well as music DVDs and CDs.

As of 2011 Southern Music Company had a staff of approximately thirty-two. Arthur Gurwitz was president, and Bob Dingley served as general manager. In February 2012, however, the retail store closed as Gurwitz began liquidation of the business. Southern Music Company was purchased by Lauren Keiser Music Publishing on June 22, 2012. Though Southern Music Company still maintained an office, operated by manager Bob Dingley, in San Antonio, its voluminous inventory and publishing operation were transferred to Minnesota for distribution through Hal Leonard. The University of Texas at Austin had purchased publishing rights to its own fight song and “The Eyes of Texas,” which were not part of the sale of Southern Music’s catalog. Texas A&M University was in the process of acquiring the rights to the “Aggie War Hymn.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Arthur Gurwitz and Bob Dingley, Interview by Lawrence J. Jasinski, February 20, 2009. Southern Music Company (http://www.southernmusic.com), accessed November 23, 2011. San Antonio Express-News, July 1, 1999; June 28, 2012.

Lawrence J. Jasinski

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Lawrence J. Jasinski, "Southern Music Company," accessed December 17, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xas04.

Uploaded on May 27, 2015. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.